Breaking News Emails
ROME — Nearly 4,500 migrants were plucked from boats off the coast of Libya over the weekend and 10 bodies were recovered, Italy's coast guard and navy said, in what looked to be the biggest rescue mission of its kind so far this year.
Two weeks after nearly 900 boat people drowned in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory, the flow of people from Africa desperate to reach a better life in Europe has accelerated, as people smugglers take advantage of calmer seas.
Seven bodies were found on two large rubber boats packed with migrants and rescuers plucked from the sea the corpses of three others who had jumped into the water when they saw a merchant ship approaching, the coast guard said.
Separately, authorities in Egypt said that three died when a migrant boat attempting to reach Greece sank off its coast. Thirty-one people were rescued.
Some 10 Italian vessels, four private boats and a French ship acting on behalf of the European border control agency took part in the rescue off Libya, coordinated by Italy, the country that receives the biggest number of Mediterranean migrants.
The private Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which runs one rescue ship in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, said on Twitter it had saved 369 migrants, mainly from Eritrea, from a single overcrowded wooden boat.
Full Coverage: Europe's Border Crisis
Growing lawlessness and anarchy in Libya is giving free hand to people smugglers who make an average of 80,000 euros ($90,000) from each boatload of migrants, according to an ongoing investigation by a southern Italian court.
Shocked by what was described as the most deadly Mediterranean shipwreck in memory last month, EU leaders agreed to triple funding for its Triton sea patrol mission after a migrant boat capsized and up to 900 drowned.